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Cook County recommends further COVID-19 restrictions for suburban bars, other businesses to voluntarily follow

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle speaks at a news conference May 27, 2020.
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle speaks at a news conference May 27, 2020. (Jose M. Osorio / Chicago Tribune)

Cook County officials issued health guidance Monday that recommends but does not require that restaurants and other businesses in the suburbs further restrict in-person services to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The Cook County Department of Public Health is asking suburban bars, fitness clubs, personal care businesses and others to follow these guidelines as COVID-19 rates for people in their 20s have soared to be about 2? times higher than they were at the end of March. That age group now has the highest rates of COVID-19, according to the department.

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“We get it. It’s summer. Young people are tired of the restrictions,” Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle wrote in a statement. “But the virus is still with us. We need to get the word out and encourage young people to be patient. Physical distancing and wearing a mask is the minimum we need people to do.”

Under the guidelines, establishments that serve alcohol without a food license are asked to limit consumption to outdoor service only. The maximum party size for restaurants and bars should be curtailed to six people, whether indoors or outdoors.

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Indoor fitness classes should be reduced to 10 people maximum, while any personal care businesses should discontinue services that require removing a face mask, such as facials or shaves, according to the department’s guidelines.

Similar to restrictions already enacted in Chicago, the recommendations also call for residential property managers to limit guests to six people per unit.

The recommendations came as suburban Cook County’s rolling seven-day positivity rate for COVID-19 rose from 5.2% on July 22 to 5.8% on July 31, according to the department. Hospital capacity in suburban Cook County has not been overburdened to the point of threatening surge capacities, although there have been two consecutive days of more hospital admissions. About one-third of ICU and surge beds are open in the suburbs.

Although the recommendations are only advisory, Dr. Rachel Rubin , department co-lead, said businesses must follow through or they may become mandatory.

“If we don’t remain vigilant, we will face far more restrictive mitigation efforts and we will see more disease and more death,” Rubin wrote in a statement.

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